Gelato is the Italian word for “ice cream”, derived from the Latin word gelātus (meaning “frozen”). In English this word commonly refers to varieties of ice cream made in a traditional Italian style. Gelato can be made with milk, cream, various sugars, and flavoring such as fresh fruit and nut purees. It is generally lower in calories, fat, cream, and sugar than other styles of ice cream.
The history of gelato dates back to frozen desserts in Sicily, ancient Rome and Egypt made from snow and ice brought down from mountain tops and preserved below ground. Later, in 1686 the Sicilian fisherman Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli perfected the first ice cream machine. However, the popularity of gelato among larger shares of the population only increased in the 1920s–1930s in the northern Italian city of Varese, where the first gelato cart was developed. Italy is the only country where the market share of handmade gelato versus industrial one is over 55%.Today, more than 5,000 modern Italian ice cream parlors employ over 15,000 people, mostly Italians.
The mixture for gelato is typically prepared using a hot process first, where the sugars need to dissolve. The hot process to make chocolate gelato is essentially the same for conventional ice cream, and depending on recipes, it is meant to be traditionally flavored with cocoa powder and cocoa butter.